San Gimignano was founded as a small village in the 3rd century BC by the Etruscans. Historical records begin in the 10th century, when it adopted the name of the bishop Saint Geminianus, who had defended it from Attila's Huns.
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance era, it was a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome, as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city's development also was improved by the trade of agricultural products from the fertile neighbouring hills.
In 1199, during the period of its highest splendour, the city made itself independent from the bishops of Volterra. Divisions between Guelphs and Ghibellines troubled the inner life of the commune, which nonetheless, still managed to embellish itself with artworks and architectures.
The city flourished until 1348, when the plague that affected all of Europe, compelled it to submit to Florence. San Gimignano became a secondary centre until the nineteenth century, when its status as a touristic and artistic resort began to be recognized.
San Gimignano has managed to conserve fourteen towers of varying height which have become its international symbol.
There are many churches in the town: the two main ones are the Collegiata, formerly a cathedral, and Sant'Agostino, housing a wide representation of artworks from some of the main Italian renaissance artists.
The Communal Palace, once seat of the podestà, is currently home of the Town Gallery, with works by Pinturicchio, Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi, Domenico di Michelino, Pier Francesco Fiorentino, and others. From Dante's Hall in the palace, access may be made to a Majesty fresco by Lippo Memmi, as well as the Torre del Podestà or Torre Grossa, 1311, which stands fifty-four meters high.
The heart of the town contains the four squares, Piazza della Cisterna, Piazza Duomo where the Collegiata is located, Piazza Pecori, and Piazza delle Erbe. The main streets are Via San Matteo and Via San Giovanni, which cross the city from north to south.
The visit to the museum San Gimignano1300 is an ideal opportunity to learn about the architectural, social, and historical aspects of the middle Ages in Tuscany. Located in the heart of the city itself, the museum offers a massive reconstruction of the city of San Gimignano dated between the 13th and 14th Century.